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Hollywood looks east

By Zhang Qidong (China Daily)

11:21, March 04, 2013

A camera crew films actor Daniel Henney in a chase scene for Shanghai Calling. (China Daily/Gao Yiping)

US film companies are seeking partners in China to co-produce films so they can get around the restriction on the number of imported movies each year. Zhang Qidong reports from San Francisco.

Shanghai Calling. But nobody was answering.

That was the situation American screenwriter and director Daniel Hsia found himself in as he tried to find a producer to make a co-production in China of his film Shanghai Calling, so it could qualify as a "domestic film" and bypass the Chinese restriction of only 34 imported movies released in China every year.

Enter co-production veteran Janet Yang, who served as Steven Spielberg's eyes and ears in China for the filming of Empire of the Sun (Warner Bros 1987) and also represented major Hollywood movie studios as they reintroduced films to China after a two-decade hiatus.

Yang helped secure financing for the movie in the US and China and got talent in both countries to work on the script and film shooting. He did this while engaging China Film Group, China's largest film producer and distributor and the main importer of foreign films, to assist with regulatory matters, distribution and post-production.

After three years, Shanghai Calling was released last July in Shanghai and this month in the US.

"American and Chinese filmmakers are now like lovers," Yang says.

"They are actively dating, getting to know each other, checking each other out. Some of them are getting engaged, and some will be married."

What's motivating Hollywood to do co-productions is money.

It wants to capture part of China's $2.75 billion box office.

A co-production agreement between a US and Chinese film company offers the best opportunity for doing that because it guarantees a movie will be released in China.

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